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A Warning to the People of the Colonies

The International African Service Bureau, an organization of Black people in Great Britain, issued this manifesto in late 1939. It called on all colonized peoples to unite against the imperialist bandits and struggle alongside British workers against the war. This is part of our collection on Marxism and Black Struggle.

Left Voice

August 15, 2020
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Leon Trotsky and C.L.R. James (Illustration: Sou Mi)

(For additional material on this manifesto see the column on the Negro Question on page 3.)

To the oppressed and exploited masses of the British Empire, and all peoples under the heel of imperialism throughout the world:

You, the most oppressed and exploited, will soon be called upon to take part in a war which threatens the slaughter of millions of men, women and children. Ruin, misery and devastation unparalleled in history endanger humanity. Yet at the conclusion of the war the mass of the people will still remain in their present condition of abject poverty. War is no solution for their problems.

Even if agreement is reached between the rival imperialisms, it will only delay for a short period the threatening conflict. The next issue will be the Colonial Question.

The Truth About the War

We are told that the war will be fought to save Poland from Hitler. This is a lie! If a battle is waged it will be to prevent Hitler from overrunning Europe and stealing “their” colonies.

This is the truth that they dare not tell!

If these democratic nations are so concerned with defending smaller nations against aggression,why did they stand aside and allow Mussolini to attack the defenseless Abyssinian1Abyssinia was a Western name for Ethiopia. people after having promised them assistance? It is to mislead you that our Imperialist masters are asking you to join up and fight for Democracy against Fascism.

DEMOCRACY! What do you know of democracy in the Empire? In 1914 they called on the masses in the Mother Country and in the Empire to fight for Democracy and self-determination. Millions died on Flanders’ Field, in Palestine, in East, West and South Africa. For what? More slavery, more oppression, more exploitation.

No “Rights” Under Imperialism

You in the Empire! What rights, what liberties,what democracy have you in the “glorious” Empires of Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, etc.? They have robbed the masses of their land and broken up their civilisation. They segregate you in your own country, pen you in reserves and locations like cattle, make you carry passes like common criminals, and then pay you starvation wages. In the West Indies you are still denied the most elementary rights of human beings. You asked for bread, and they gave you hot lead!

The colonial masses in war, as in peace, can have only one aim, one goal — INDEPENDENCE. And we summon you in whatever country — India,Ceylon, Burma, Palestine, Africa — all people who fight for this end, to unite against the warmongers, both Democratic and Fascist, and all those who at this hour pledge in your name your lives in defense of the imperialists. They do not represent the real aspirations of the colonial peoples struggling for liberty. Be vigilant and watch the traitors in your own ranks.

Unite in the Common Struggle

We denounce the whole gang of European robbers and enslavers of the colonial peoples – German Nazis, Italian Fascists, French, British, Belgian and Dutch democrats — all are the same IMPERIALIST BANDITS whose common aim is the enslavement of humanity throughout the world.

To the workers of Britain we appeal also. You must unite in the struggle of the colonial peoples against the common enemy, who is in your own country. To white and black the solution is the same: Organize and be ready to seize the opportunity to overthrow the enemy.

FOR COMPLETE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL LIBERATION OF THE COLONIAL PEOPLES!

DOWN WITH THE IMPERIALIST BANDITS!

WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE!

British Centre Against Imperialism
International African Service Bureau
London – August 29, 1939

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 76, October 6, 1939 / Transcription: Marxists Internet Archive

Notes

Notes
1 Abyssinia was a Western name for Ethiopia.
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